Khadaji's Whatcha Readin' Thread - January 2015 Edition

Holy Moly! We’ve reached 2015! New year, new books, of course… unless you’re like me and trying to get caught up with series that have been going on for the last 20 years… or a few members who are reading books 100+ years old :smiley:
So what are you reading?
Khadaji was one of the earlier members of the SDMB, and he was well known as a kindly person who always had something encouraging to say, particularly in the self-improvement threads. He was also a voracious, omnivorous reader; and he started these monthly book threads. Sadly, he passed away in January 2013, and we decided to rename these monthly threads in his honour.
Last month’s thread: December Thread

The Madness of Cthulhu, a collection of new Lovecxraftian stories by S.T. Joshi. A birthday gift. Most of the stories have only the vaguest connection to Lovecraft’s mythos, but when they do, they’re pretty good. The book also includes two older stories by long-established authors, Robert Silberberg and Arthur C. Clarke, who I never knew had ever written anything remotely Lovecraftian.

The Annotated Lovecraft – Leslie Klinger is the KIng of Re-Annotated Books, having done new annotated editions of Dracula (previous annotated by Leonard Wolf) and Sherlock Holmes (previously done by William S. Baring-Gould). S.T. Joshi has already provided two collected volumes of annotated Lovecraft, along with a couple of stand-alone editions (like The Annotated Shadows over Innsmouth), but Klinger’s take is different, and he has the blessing of Joshi. Lots of pictures of houses and places that Lovecraft describes, or served as inspiration, along with movie posters and the like. My main complaint is that the reproductions of maps and the like are too damned small to read.

A Short History of Science – an audiobook, with enough tiny nuggets of unfamiliar history to make it worthwhile. I’ve finally found a copy of The Fellowship of the Ring audiobook to complete my Tolkien collection, and will be listening to that next.

I posted this in the other thread this morning, so thought I’d repost it over here and maybe fix the coding:

Over the weekend, I tried to read Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal, but it was weak. It makes me sad to see all the gushing reviews comparing it to The Help. This one felt like it was dumbed down for people who don’t read very much. (If you read and liked it, I’m sorry and don’t mean to insult you, but that was my honest opinion).

Currently reading Silence for the Dead by Simone St. James and enjoying the heck out of it. If it finishes as well as it’s begun, I’ll definitely read more by this author.

Over Xmas I finished reading The History of Henry Esmond, a Colonel in the Service of Her Majesty Queen Anne. I already read the sequel – The Virginians – in December 2012. At the time, I was a bit confused by the Esmond family tree which involves:
(a) a bastard son who isn’t really a bastard son, and
(b) a mother and daughter who act more like sisters competing for the same man’s attention

I thought that reading Henry Esmond would clear some things up. It did, but it also raised more questions. Who is Thomas Esmond’s father? Was Henry Esmond born in 1678 or 1680?

Nevertheless, I liked it and I thought the background of the Glorious Revolution was interesting. Now I started re-reading The Virginians to see if there’s anything I missed the first time around.

Elendil’s Heir, I just wanted you to know I’m looking forward to your annual top ten thread.

Jeez, I only read about four different authors last year… hmmmmm

Thanks! Here you go:

I’m about about halfway through John Scalzi’s Redshirts and am really enjoying it. A clever meta take on Star Trek’s enduringly, maddeningly beloved cliches.

Also enjoying Firefly: A Celebration, ed. by Abbie Bernstein et al., about Joss Whedon’s short-lived sf/Western TV show. It has all the scripts, interviews with the cast and crew, photos of props and other good bits.

Slowly making progress through The West Point History of the Civil War, ed. by Clifford J. Rogers et al., which is very good but very thick.

I finally gave up on Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter last night. Too slow, too plodding, too overwritten. Like Dickens, I think he was paid by the word. I just never got into it.

I’ve set aside Edmund Morris’s Colonel Roosevelt, about T.R.'s post-White House years, for the moment.

Hawthorne’s guilt trips always get on my nerves more than his wordiness. I always see him walking around with a black cloud raining on him.

I’ve summarized my book pile for 2014 and am ready to tackle the next slope of Mt. ToBeRead. The current slope consists of:

*Bulfinch’s Mythology, Thomas Bulfinch: This is an occasional read as it is a Weighty Tome.
*The Three Pillars of Zen, Philip Kaplan: A classic I’ve always meant to read.
*The Tragedy of Doctor Faustus, Christopher Marlowe: I found this in a box of forgotten books in my old bedroom at Dad’s house. It was one of my mom’s old college texts.
*Dragondrums, Anne McCaffrey: The Harper Hall trilogy reminds me of my childhood. :slight_smile: So of course a mouse nibbled on the covers and now I need to get a new set. :mad:
*The Blue Sword, Robin McKinley: One of my favorite novels from my favorite author.
*The Comedy of Errors, William Shakespeare: My current Author Quest is Shakespeare. (An Author Quest is when I read everything that a certain author has written, limited by what my local library carries.) I can definitely tell this is an early work.
*The Stone of Farewell, Tad Williams: I like this series, but I do not like Tolkienesque elves. That trope is starting to get on my nerves more than a little.

Oh, pickles and onions :frowning: I looked back at my New Year’s Reading Resolutions from 2014, and with the exception of reading 12 nonfiction books, I did a poor job. Although I enjoyed a good bit of what I read, looking back, most of it wasn’t very good quality. I read very few classics, and I eliminated almost nothing from the Groaning Bookshelves of Grrlbrarian.

Ergo, I’m going to hold to my Book Grounding resolution this year and read only stuff (and trust me, there’s LOTS) that I own but haven’t read. I do re-read stuff, but I’ll be trying to read only new things. And if I know I won’t re-read it, out it goes once I’ve read it.

I’m starting with British as a Second Language by David Bennun. It’s occasionally made me smile, but it seems quite self-indulgent thus far. He grew up in Nairobi and, at the age of 18, transplanted himself to Britain to attend university. He remained post-schooling and has been bewildered by the locals ever since, to hear him tell it. High points: Diatribes against mushy peas and hot dogs in cans, as well as customer dis-service. Low points: LONG rant against Crusties (pseudo-hippies) and fascination with his own drugs experimentation. This is looking like a good work treadmill book, so I need to harvest the Groaning for a good bedside classic next.

I tore through Tana French’s The Secret Place, which I mostly enjoyed a lot. It’s a great addition to her Dublin Murder Squad books – this one revolves around a murder on the grounds of a tony girls’ boarding school, and in this, the author used a new (to her series) structure of having all the investigative action take place over a single day, and kept the events leading up to the crime in a separate series of narratives from the point of view of the girls at the school.

I had received the new(ish) Stephen King novel for Christmas, Revival … and honestly, I read about 15 pages and the whole tone creeped me out and I had to put it down. I will definitely go back to it, of course.

Finished Madness of Cthulhu.

I’m 1/4-1/3 of the way through The Annotated H. P. Lovecraft, with notes by Leslie Klinger. I hadn’t realized how much of the colonial detail in the flashback sections is actually meticulously researched history. I would’ve guessed that Lovecraft simply made up the details, keeping them as realistic as possible. But virtually all of the characters are not merely based on real ones, but actually are historical figures. And the many places, such as the Turk’s Head tavern, were real Providence RI fixtures.

Starting the Foundation Trilogy, a transcription of a radio adaptation done by the BBC. The book itself doesn’t tell you when it was broadcast, but Wikipedia says originally in 1973, and again in 1977 and 2002. I suspect the copy I have (used) was connected with that last release. Apparently it’s available as an MP3 download. And someone seems to have put it on YouTube.

Finished the audiobook I’d been listening to, then heard UR by Stephen King. I’d heard about this story, supposed to be released as an e-book only. Apparently someone decided that they could also release it on audio, even if they couldn’t print it. A quick “read”.

I’m now on to Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly, and the making of the Modern Middle East by Scott Anderson. It’s a much better read than the previous Lawrence Bio I tried to read, which seemed to assume that the reader already knew most of Lawrence’s life, and just wanted all the details. This one succinctly gives the facts and his personality, as well as those of those he encountered.

Finished Silence For the Dead. It fizzled a bit at the end, and I could have done without the romance entirely, but all in all it was decent.

Now I’m on to Dangerous Visions, a collection of science fiction stories edited by Harlan Ellison. I’ve wanted to read this for a long time but it’s not wowing me yet. There were four introductions and each story has both a foreword and an afterword. Philip Jose Farmer’s story, “Riders of the Purple Wage”, defeated me after ten pages or so. I’m sure there are some jewels in these pages but I’m skimming an awful lot at this point.

Am reading A People’s History of the United States… at least til I ran over my tablet… the replacement is coming in a few days and I will pick it back up.

Holidays offered me some time for reading, so I finished Isaac Asimov’s Foundation, which I really enjoyed. But the short story format kind of drained me for the follow ons, so I stuck the book back on the shelf for now and will return to Foundation and Empire later. Right now, I’m reading David Ramirez’s The Forever Watch, which is quite interesting: mankind has left a doomed earth on a major space ship to go to a new world to settle, and two people are finding out that everything is not as it seems aboard the ship; investigating a suspicious death, they discover serious shenanigans going on.

But because its a bit heavy at times, I settled in with something much lighter but very enjoyable: Ben Aaronovitch’s London-set PC Peter Grant series. Peter Grant is a Police Constable in London, where, upon meeting a ghost, he gets introduced into the Metropolitan Police’s very own magical inquiry force (staff of two). I like it: Grant’s just a bit of a Mary Sue, but his development of magical talent is taken slowly, and it’s a fun police procedural (with magic!). I’d rate it slightly below Mike Carey’s Felix Castor series and slightly above Kate Griffin’s Matthew Swift series for London-based urban fantasy.

Since I enjoyed Gone Girl, I’m now reading Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places. It is indeed very dark, and so far almost every character, including the protagonist, is completely unlikeable. She writes unlikeable characters very well with a lot of complexity and nuance. I’m enjoying it.

Also reading Deep Survival, which, through stories of people who have faced and overcome great challenges combined with science and research, explores what makes some people able to overcome those challenges against overwhelming odds while other people just give up and die.

Just finished The Snail on the Slope by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky. Not read it since I got it back in 1980. Good and strange, about the stalled investigation into a mysterious forest and it’s inhabitants. To me, it bears a passing resemblance to Jeff Vandermeer’s recent Annihilation. I’ve only read the 1st part of his trilogy though, and probably they veer wildly apart!

And now I’ve started what will probably be a fairly slow read of The Secret History of the Roman Roads of Britain by M. C. Bishop, which I ghot for Christmas. Serious stuff looking at why the roads are where they are, and how they were used after the Romans left, up to the present day.

Light relief is being provided by 1979 short story anthology Car Sinister edited by Martin H. Greenberg, Robert Silverberg & Joseph D. Olander - starting with X Marks the Pedwalk by Fritz Leiber, mentioned elsewhere on the Board recently, and an early George R. R. Martin ghost story, The Exit to San Breta.

Renewing my 2014 Book Resolution (since I didn’t do so hot) to post reviews (if only a few sentences) of the books I read… if I spent the time reading them, I can spare a few moments to note what I thought of them, goshdarnit!

I’m also joining Grrlibrarian in grounding myself from new books… kind of. My focus this year will be on Mount ToBeRead - with occasional forays into library reads, instead of vice versa. According to my spreadsheet, 70% of what I read came from the library. Let’s see if I can swap that percentage around for 2015.

That said, the first 2 books I completed this year were non Mount ToBeRead candidates… one from the Indiana Digital media library consortium and one from the Amazon Prime Lending Library.

Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart was a recommendation from Thing Fish, plus I had his Super Sad True Love Story on my ToRead list… tho I’m not sure how much in a hurry I am to follow up with that. While I found the memoir an interesting read, especially considering his childhood in 1970’s Soviet Russia, Shteyngart himself did not come off well.
I got the impression of a spoiled only child with his head firmly lodged in his own navel for the majority of the text. That said, I did feel for the Failurchka of the title at times - the casual abuse by his parents (and classmates) left me more than a little horrified. It’s hard for me to say whether I liked the book or not, but I admire Shteyngart for having written it.

The Glass Magician is the second in the series by Charlie N. Holmberg, and continues to follow Ceony Twill in her apprenticeship (and infatuation) with Emery Thane, a magician who uses paper for his spells. The larger story arc involving a fellow magician bent on revenge progresses nicely, and Ceony faces some interesting challenges as well. The trilogy is set in a fairly well-drawn alternate Edwardian-ish England, and the magic system seems relatively well-thought out, with each magician “bonding” with a given material - paper, glass, metal, etc. The romance is G-rated (lots of longing & eventually, one kiss) but the danger/violence ratchets up a bit, with a scene involving broken glass that made me cringe a bit! While this installment doesn’t show quite the inventiveness of the debut novel, I continue to enjoy the series as a lighter read, and will probably pick up The Master Magician, due July 2015 if/when it becomes available as an Amazon Prime Lending Library pick.

Ohhh Mt ToBeRead…

There’s a growing volcanic “chick” here as well.

I just finished “Stochastic Man” by Robert Silverberg. Damn, I love me some Robert Silverberg. I just re-read The Majipoor Cycle a few years ago, so I’m not ready to dive into them again; I might have to check out what my local library has for me.

Those of us using Goodreads, are any of you having trouble accessing it today? Firefox keeps telling me it is unsafe :frowning:

Chrome loaded it all right, hmmm…